The word marlin came first and that's all my daughter would say. Marlin was whale, dolphin, walrus, bottlenose. She kept on sleeping and growing until she could fit in my sweaters and walk out in my boots and into the garden. Into the pink oleander. She'd bury things out there. Notes, silverware, jewelry stolen from the homes of our relatives.
Our yard was full of secrets, in the trees and in the shade under the boat. Lacewings, snails, beetles, salamanders and pygmy shrews, and red and yellow sprouts always uncurling. I'd been all over that yard, all the rough and smooth sides of it, with my tools and special soil mixes. My daughter liked wearing the gloves and pushing a spade through the rocks and the loam. She liked listening to me sing Oh, Susanna.
And then one day I drove her through three states, across the mountains and into a different landscape, where yards were more sand than grass and the days were dry and hot. She was wearing my sea horse skirt, and clam shells and tides rippled over her legs in the car. Sunlight came through the windshield. I was going to turn off the engine and leave her in a building with ten flights of stairs, and then I was going to drive back home alone through the night.
I'd return once a month to sit with her in a restaurant and eat ice cream. Her hair would be blonder, her arms and calves strong from the tennis classes and horseback riding. I'd be someone ridiculous, with a neck scarf and an asymmetrical bob. "You're such a dork," she'd say.